Shamrock Rovers welcome Russian side Rubin Kazan to Tallaght Stadium on Thursday evening for their first game in the Europa League group stage. (Kick off, 6pm)
Rovers will start as underdogs against a Rubin side that won the Russian league in 2008 and 2009 and who competed in the Champions League group stages in 2009/10 and 2010/11. On both occasions Rubin were in the same group as Barcelona and over four games with the Spanish giants they lost just once, even winning 2-1 at the Camp Nou in 2009.
Rubin failed to progress on both occasions are were entered into the Europa League knock out stages where they were defeated in the last 16 by Wolfsburg in 2010, and by FC Twente in the last 32 last season.
This season Rubin beat Dynamo Kiev in the 3rd qualifying round of the Champions League before going down 4-2 on aggregate to French side Lyons.
Rubin are currently lying seventh in the Russian Premier League which, like the Airtricity League, runs through the summer. With seven league games remaining they are eight points behind leaders, and current champions, Zenit St Petersburg. Rubin have lost just one of their last five games, a 3-1 defeat away to Kuban Krasnodar last Saturday.
Rovers European form this season has been well documented. They defeated Estonian side Flora Tallinn in the second qualifying round of the Champions League before losing out 3-0 on aggregate to the Danish champions FC Copenhagen in the third qualifying round. Then came the historic defeat of Partizan Belgrade in the Europa League play-offs and their qualification for the group stages.
Domestically, Rovers have taken just four points from their last three league games, losing to title rivals Sligo Rovers last Friday night and drawing 1-1 with St Patricks Athletic on Monday. However, with seven league games left to play, they are just a single point behind leaders Derry City with a game in hand over both Derry and second placed Sligo.
Michael O’Neill will be without defender Ken Oman and forward Dean Kelly for Thursday’s game while new signings Jim Paterson and Rohan Ricketts are both expected to play a role.
Injured: Ken Oman, Dean Kelly.
Cup Tied: Roman Eremenko.
Referee: Zsolt Szabo (Hungary).
Paddy Power Odds: Rovers 6/1; Draw 11/4; Rubin 8/15.
Extratime prediction: Rubin to win 1-0.
Simon O'Gorman began reporting for Extratime in 2010. He remembers Milltown and Flower Lodge and, back in the mists of time, saw Diego Maradona play at Lansdowne Road. He now lives in Co Kildare and reports on Shamrock Rovers among others. Simon can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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